Stranded Traveler Survival Stories
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A few years ago in late January we returned to Miami from a Caribbean cruise. There we discovered a mid-Atlantic snowstorm was impacting air travel along the East Coast and inland. Our flight to Virginia, with a connection in Charlotte, though delayed, had not been cancelled, so it was with some trepidation that we boarded. However. once seated and awaiting take off, the pilot made an unusual announcement. He informed us that the Charlotte airport would be closing due to the snow shortly after our arrival, that there would be no further flights out of Charlotte that evening, and that all the hotels in the area were already full. It was his suggestion that "if Charlotte is not your final desitination, you should consider exiting the aircraft and rebooking." We could not get off that plane fast enough, but I think we were the only ones who did. There were no problems getting a hotel room in Miami, where we spent two additional days lounging poolside awaiting a flight home. Thankfully, we only had carry ons. When we finally did make a connection through Charlotte, we saw some of the same people who were on our original flight still camped out in the airport there and looking very haggard and unhappy. We decided that we would choose Miami any day over the Charlotte airport as a place to be stranded waiting out a snowstorm!!!
hate being stranded
2010 was a Banner year for us since we got a one night delay in Barcelona due to the Iceland Volcanic eruption. Oceania handled the ash cloud scenario with professionalism, briefing passangers in advance of debarkation and ensuring that all had a hotel room in Barcelona for their stay (1 night or 2 wks - none of us knew at that point). Crew kept their cool when asked inane questions like," How will my daughter know where I am?".
Oceania worked hard to get us rebooked on other flights and we got out the next day after joining other passengers for a downtown dinner and flamenco show and a night (gratis - since we bought air with the cruise line), at a smart modern hotel.
Again in July, we got stuck in Venice due to a baggage handlers' strike - ok, another free night thanks to Lufthansa/Air Canada- in Venice. What great cities to get stuck in!
But always, be pleasant, considerate with airline staff at the desk. I work with the public and if you are difficult, rude or nasty, you're going to the bottom of my list. A well seasoned traveler takes trip interruptions with aplomb, a generous attitude and a laptop or I Phone for e-mailing folks back home.
We were in New York City over Christmas and were scheduled to pick up a car in New Jersy to drive to eastern Pennsylvania on the 27th. Unfortunately, 20" of snow in the city had other plans for us.
We delayed our drive one day, only to find that NJTransit was running a reduced schedule -- our planned train wasn't going as far as our car rental location. Thanks to a good internet connection, we were able to find a NJTransit line that was: a) running, b) going to a station far enough west to avoid a lot of the snow, c) relatively close to our planned route, and d) near a car rental office that would be open when we got there.
Instead of fighting the snow, we spent the extra day in NYC riding the subway and visiting some of the many stations that have extensive art installations.
Got stuck in London for 9 days before Christmas due to weather and incompetency of Heathrow contractor (Spanish company that had never run an airport before). Never got to Budapest, my original destination, and never got my luggage. I had to rebook myself home on Christmas day on Delta, since British Airways could not be reached on the phone or internet, and never contacted me (even to this day!). But I smarted out - instead of sleeping in Heathrow or outside in a tent, used my frequent Hilton points to stay in downtown London, and went to the theater, ate out, saw museums, etc., to pass the time will stranded. Morale: don't ever fly to Europe in the dead of winter, especially through Heathrow, unless prepared to be abandoned for a week or more.
Our stranded traveller story is not very exciting but we did learn a good lesson (which we should have learned before). We travel home for Christmas most years, and almost every trip there is a weather-related delay in one direction or the other.
This year, we flew from NYC to Toronto and then drove north for Christmas. Our return flight on the 27th was cancelled and we were told that the earliest flight we could get a confirmed booking for was two days later. I could have gone into my company's office in Toronto and used a computer there yesterday and today, so I wouldn't have had to use up vacation days due to the delay. My husband, however, needed a laptop in order to be able to work - and we had decided not to pack one because we felt rather loaded down with Christmas gifts and gear and knew we wouldn't use while visiting family north of Toronto.
Consequently, we called late on the 27th and got rebooked to travel at mid-day on the 28th (instead of waiting until the evening of the 29th to travel, as we'd initially planned to do when our first flight got cancelled). If we had packed a laptop, we could have enjoyed getting stuck in Toronto for a few days; in particular, we could have got our work done, caught up with friends and former colleagues and then travelled when the weather (and airplane backlog) had cleared up. Instead, we each wasted a vacation day yesterday at Pearson Airport, where we made two trips through US Immigration, two trips through security and one trip through Canadian Immigration (because our flight got cancelled and we had to collect or luggage and get it re-checked). Our trip home probably took twice as long (or more) than it would have if we had been able to wait one more day to travel.
Lesson learned - if you can't afford (or don't want to) miss work because of a delay returning from a trip, pack a laptop - even if it's just a netbook. And set up some of your work before you leave (e.g., save a few key files in an email you can access) so you can keep yourself busy for a day or so.
Of the many “stranded stories”, I always remember the time when I was about 9 years old. My dad and I took a ship going home which takes more than 24 hours to reach our province. After we boarded, the crew was advised to postpone sailing as a storm was on its way. My father watched his favorite basketball team on the TV instead. The next day I so bored, I went to the economy class and watched the movie that was playing then – without telling my dad. When the movie was finished, there were ship crews and some people at our bunks as the ship was ready to sail 3 hours earlier but couldn’t as I was declared missing by my dad. All I said was, “I’ve been away for 3 hours? Really?”
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